Last Fall we bought a house, which was constructed in 2000. Just recently,
we've noticed that the hot water is not as hot as it has been since we've
lived here. (This is a "State Select" 40 gal. water heater. The style is
short and squatty, 32 inches high by about 20 inches thick.) I looked
closely at the heater last night, and I noted that both thermostats are
turned up just about as high as they can go.
I've done some reading here and there about changing the thermostats and/or
the elements. I have gone out and purchased two 4500w elements, as well as
the top and bottom thermostats. Before I "jump in" and start taking this
critter apart, I thought I'd post here for any tips that it would be helpful
for me to know. Thanks in advance for any insight that you'd care to offer.
Usually only one of the elements will burn out and then it cannot keep
up and get to set temperature.
I would cut the power and check the elements with an ohm meter. I
would bet that the lower element is shorted out and that it may be
covered with calcium carbonate if you have fairly hard water in your
area. Problem is you can't just replace the element, you have to dig
out the calcium carbonate, not easy through the drain hole.
I wouldn't replace anything that aint broke. I'm surprised that two
elements and two thermostats doesn't just about cost what a new heater
On Tue, 9 Aug 2005 14:04:47 -0700, "Jubilation T. Cornpone"
"Frank Boettcher" sought to be helpful in offering the following:
Many thanks for the reply, Frank. Yes, the water here is hard indeed. The
previous owner had a water softener, but they took it with them, as it was
not part of the purchase agreement. We've talked about getting one, but
just haven't seriously pursued it yet. I would be much in your debt if you
would amplify just how to use the ohmmeter. I have one, but haven't utilized
it in a long time...
I haven't shopped for a heater yet. These two thermostats and two elements
set me back a total of $62 and change at The Home Depot.
set meter to OHMS (may be marked with a greek omega symbol - ? )
disconnect the two wires at the element to be tested
put one lead of meter to each terminal of heating element (like how the
wires were just connected)
a reading of flashing, or 1 Mega ? (1 million ohms) or more means an open
element = bad
a low reading of 12 ohms or something like that = good
reconnect 230V wires to element you just tested or replace if bad
test other element the same way
Another possibility for this symptom that I have not seen mentioned is a
leak somewhere in a hot water line. This constant flow can prevent the water
from ever getting hot enough even with the thermostats closed and both
elements heating. If an element is burned out, it is nearly always the lower
one because of sediment in the heater. Another possibility is a broken dip
tube in the heater. This causes the incoming cold water to mix immediately
with the outgoing hot water. Hope this helps if you find nothing wrong with
the elements and thermostats.
If 'twere me, I would consider just replacing the whole hot water heater.
The warranty period on tanks is usually only about six years anyway. If
you live in this house for any time period, you are likely to have to
replace it anyway. When I replace mine, I plan to go to a 50 gallon heater
as I think the incremental cost will be well worth the extra capacity. Just
my two cents...
Let's take a deep breath. Keep those elements in their original boxes.
Heating elements do not work part way, they work or they don't, no
There are a number of possible issues. Depending on the water in your
area, that 5 year old heater may now have built up enough deposits to be
time to replace. This should not be the case in most area.
http://home.howstuffworks.com/water-heater.htm will help you out
figuring out what may be the problem. I suspect maybe a thermostat.
When you say it is not has hot as it has been, do you mean it never gets
that hot (how hot is that, have you measured it?) or do you mean it does
not stay hot?
"Joseph Meehan" stopped by and shared some good information:
Thanks for the reply. No problem, everything is still in shrink-wrap in the
Home Depot bag at this point.
I really appreciate that link! I can see that I'll be hanging out there for
various needs. A really nice-looking place!
What I mean by that is that my wife and I both have our hot/cold mixtures
set per our preferences in the two bathrooms that we have. In the past
couple of days, both of us have had to add more hot water in order to
maintain the shower temps that we like. After reading that article that you
linked me to, this is beginning to sound like one of the elements is no
longer heating. (Or a thermostat went on the blink.) Whaddya think?
That was going to be my suggestion; an element is out.
One way to find out, if you're patient enough, is to
disconnect one element at a time and ohm it out if you
have an ohmmeter of any kind. Radio Shack sells some
cheapos for about ten bucks that would be fine for this
purpose. NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING UNTIL THE POWER IS OFF
IF YOU AREN'T FAMILIAR WITH ELECTRICAL SAFETY!!!!!!!!!
Even when power is off, still treat it like it's live
until you are POSITIVE it's off and that the correct
breakers have been opened! Don't trust labels in a new
If you can't ohm them out, you could simply
disconnect one and see what happens. If the water goes
stone cold, you disconnected the good element. If no
change, then you disconnected the bad element and it
needs to be replaced. You have to give it hours to
come to enough change to be sure, though, so you're
possible going to have cold water for a bit.
The thermostats being set to near max isn't right
either though. It makes me wonder if the elements have
been replaced already, and the wrong ones were used.
If both elements are working, then I think I'd compare
one with the ones you bought and see if they're the
same. BE SURE TO SHUT OFF POWER BEFORE YOU TOUCH
ANYTHING IN THERE!
Hot water temperature is 140 degrees for a dishwasher
and 120 degrees for a non-scald temperature, which is
what we use, even with a dishwasher. We have an oil
fired water heater though, so our recovery rate is very
fast compared to electric.
You can hold a regular outdoor thermometer in the
running hot water to see what temperature it is. They
almost always go to at least 120. Water needs to be
over 100 degrees before it starts to feel warm on the
hands and wrists.
Have you checked to verify that the flow of hot/cold
water from the faucets is as it used to be? Could it
be a blockage in a hot water pipe, or the supply to the
water heater? Anyone been turning any valves? Is
water pressure, period, OK and unchanged?
I imagine it's a 220Vac unit: Are both voltages
present? I think it's usually black and red wiring;
each should measure about 120V to neutral and about
220 between the two. Well, assuming you're north
america and it's a standard 220 unit. You should be
able to use any bare metal on the heater for the
neutral connection for your meter. BE VERY CAREFUL!
If you aren't comfortable working on live equipement,
and don't know the safety rules, GET HELP! You cannot
guess safely. Electricity can kill in just a few
seconds; it's not for the inexperienced.
I find I'm still stuck on the thermostats, actually.
Perhaps someone will pipe in with better background
than I have - been awhile since we had an electric
Oh, and thanks for not calling it a "hot water" heater:
Hot water doesn't need heating <g>.
"Pop" happened by and tossed out some helpful thoughts:
Thank you for the reply, Pop. Yes, I have an ohmmeter, but haven't used it
in a long time. Please refresh my memory as to what I'm to look for when I
"ohm it out."
Don't worry. This one has a separate breaker right above the heater, with no
other breakers that can be confused with it. It's the kind of breaker where
you actually physically pull a flat copper bar out of of the "ON" channel.
You can then store the copper bar in the "OFF" channel a few inches below
it. I'll not touch a thing unless I have it set to OFF.
Just me and my wife here. She hasn't changed anything, nor have I. Pressure
appears to be fine, the same as it has been all along...
Yes, it's 220. I'll definitely need to do some reading and "boning up" on
how to do that.
Ha! You're welcome! I got to thinking about how that would be redundant to
add "hot" to the term, so opted to leave it out.
Yes, make very sure the power is totally off, then check it again.
Disconnect the elements one at a time. If one is bad, and I think that
is a good chance, it will show max ohms (same as not connected) if it is
good it will show a low ohm number. The good part is the low cost of
replacing one element makes it easy and cheap.
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